Plenty Of Reason For Optimism For Saint Peter’s Future After MAAC Quarterfinal Exit

ALBANY, N.Y. — Saint Peter’s was very much a wild card entering the season in November, but even as their season wraps up in the MAAC quarterfinal round, it could easily be deemed a success.

“At the end of the day, from where this team came from early in the year, not knowing how to win games to winning 12 MAAC games was fun to watch,” head coach John Dunne said. “And to watch them grow, I can’t be more proud of these guys. We’ll get back to work in couple of weeks and we’ll get excited about next season.”

For a team that started 1-4 and was once five games under .500 on Feb. 5, the Peacocks finished the season 14-16 and 12-8 in conference play. A team that lost seniors Marvin Dominque, Tyler Gaskins and Desi Washington to graduation after finishing 8-12 was hardly expected to be better this season. However, freshman Antwon Portley proved to be a find and the Peacocks won six of their final nine games of the season.

Quadir Welton led the Peacocks with 16 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks and the best news for the program is, he has one more season remaining. Travis Wyche had 13 points in the losing effort, playing the full 40 minutes for Saint Peter’s: he will be back next season.

“As a group we just know that we can be really good,” Wyche said was the lesson they learned from this experience. “We’re just going to come into spring workouts and just the offseason and just work hard and just keep grinding and then come back next year and hopefully have a winning season and just be ready to play when the MAAC tournament comes again.”

The Peacocks had one of the latest entrances to the MAAC tournament, playing the final game on Saturday night, and might have had the shortest run after their game against the Stags ended. The clock struck midnight on their season, but it does not take away from a fourth place performance after being picked ninth in the preseason. Portley ranked 17th in the conference in scoring (14.0 ppg) and was named to the MAAC All-Rookie team. Welton ranked second in the conference in rebounding (8.2 rpg). Saint Peter’s was the best defensive team in the conference (66.2 ppg) and even held Fairfield’s high octane offense to 13 points off their average. However it was break downs offensively and struggles to adjust that did them in on Saturday, but they will offer a lesson moving forward.

Even Chazz Patterson, who drew the late assignment on Marcus Gilbert. The junior got shook by the senior First Team All-MAAC member who drained the dagger three that dashed the Peacocks’ hopes.

“Chazz Patterson, in my mind, could be right up there for Defensive Player of the Year,” Dunne said. “He’s like a glove out there and he’s proven it time and time again and listen Ogunyemi is a great player and deserving of the award, it’s not a knock on him, but I think Chazz Patterson is right up there with them. He’s done a great job all year long and then Gilbert made the great play and the nice shot to seal the win for them.”

Patterson will be a senior and not only will the Peacocks bring back plenty of experience, but they bring in three transfers who have sat out this past season and practiced with the team. Houston transfer Cavon Baker will have one season of eligibility, while George Washington transfer Nick Griffin and Samford transfer Nnamdi Enechionyia will each have two seasons. The future should be plenty bright in Jersey City for a team that could exceed the expectations set from a fourth place finish.

Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.

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